Bishop Monkton Railway Cutting Nature Reserve

Peacock on field scabious at Bishop Monkton - Credit Alan Redden

Bishop Monkton Railway Cutting Nature Reserve

A small haven for wildlife tucked away in an intensively agricultural landscape. The rich abundance of flowers and sheltered nature of the site provides sun traps for basking insects, particularly for a number of butterfly species.


Moor Road
North Yorkshire

OS Map Reference

SE 312 660
A static map of Bishop Monkton Railway Cutting Nature Reserve

Know before you go

2 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Limited roadside parking available.


Permissive footpaths. Suitable for wheelchair access.


No dogs permitted

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

May to September


Cut into the magnesian limestone belt, this stretch of the now disused London and North Eastern Railway line provides ideal conditions for lime-loving plant species. Once the railway went out of use nature began to take the site over, with flourishing wildflowers and the gradual establishment of trees and scrub around the boundaries of the site. This site now comprises an area of increasingly rare, unimproved neutral and calcareous grassland, supporting a good range of plants, including cowslip, wild marjoram, ox-eye daisy, bird’s-foot trefoil, lady’s mantle, salad burnet and St John’s Wort, creating an attractive swathe of colour in May, June and early July.

The perimeter is bounded by a dense belt of scrub, providing an important habitat for birds, mammals and invertebrates. With over 70 species of moths recorded, try visiting in the evening to find some of them yourself!

The scrub is particularly significant in the local area, as the nature reserve is surrounded by arable farmland that provides few such habitats. Management of the nature reserve focusses on maintaining the extent and quality of the grassland, along with its margin of scrub.

Seasonal highlights

  • Spring: Plants - Cowslip; Bird's-foot trefoil; Hawthorn blossom
  • Summer: Plants - Common spotted orchid; Salad burnet; Invertebrates - Ringlet; Gatekeeper
  • Autumn: Mammals - Roe deer; Birds - Fieldfare; Redwing; Bullfinch
  • Winter: Birds - Kestrel; Barn owl; Mammals - Stoat


Part of the Harrogate to Ripon line of the London and North Eastern Railway, this section became disused in 1967. Whilst the line was active a railway worker’s hut with a garden was located by the side of the track and a number of garden plants have survived and are still in evidence on the site today. Whilst not native, these plants provide additional food sources for insects within the nature reserve and give tantalising glimpses into the industrial past of the site.


Public transport
A bus route passes through the village of Burton Leonard (although the nature reserve is some distance outside the village). A top tip from a regular visitor said "Take the number 36 Ripon - Harrogate - Leeds bus and get off at Bishop Monkton crossroads and walk down the hill. If you then walk down to Bishop Monkton you can then go through the village, along the riverside and then along the canal towpath back into Ripon.

By car
The nature reserve lies west of the village of Bishop Monkton. From Harrogate take the Bishop Monkton turning off the A61 Ripon road; continue over the hump back bridge towards the village. Turn round and return to park on the left hand verge, well away from the bridge, which is ‘blind’ and used by fast traffic. Entrance to the site through the farm gate close to the bridge and a kissing gate approximately 20m down the edge of the field.